When Cars Become Deadly Weapons
Police are looking for clues in a fatal aggressive driving incident that also involved a hit-and-run driver.
Authorities state that 26-year-old Salman Khan and another unidentified driver collided near the intersection of Windhover Drive and Kirkman Road in west Orlando. For unknown reasons, Mr. Khan exited his vehicle after the non-injury wreck to confront the other driver. At that time, the unknown driver suddenly accelerated, ran over Mr. Khan, and then fled the scene.
Investigators are following standard procedure, which includes interviewing witnesses and reviewing nearby surveillance video, to search for clues.
Fact Issues in Hit-and-Run Cases
Statistically, about one in ten drivers leave the scene after a collision. That number is rather deceptive, because the proportion is often much higher in some areas and in some circumstances. For example, about 50 percent of the car crashes in Los Angeles County involve hit-and-run drivers, and many sprawling urban areas, like Orlando/Lakeland/Tampa, have similar problems. The proportion is also greater in fatal crashes, especially ones that involve pedestrians.
In addition to fear of the direct consequences, many drivers run due to fear of the collateral consequences, because they are driving without valid licenses or they are uninsured. And many have one thing in common: rightly or wrongly, they believe they can get away with it.
The number of drivers caught and successfully prosecuted in criminal court also varies significantly by jurisdiction, but generally speaking, if the drivers do not voluntarily turn themselves in or if the police do not apprehend them within a few days, authorities almost never catch them. Also, bear in mind that first responders are there to secure the scene and treat injured victims, not to collect evidence for a future plaintiff in a future civil lawsuit.
That’s why lawyers often partner with private investigators who focus on hit-and-run cases. These specially-trained professionals often identify critical physical evidence that first responders may have overlooked, or they can convince reluctant witnesses to talk about what they saw.
Legal Issues in Hit-and-Run Cases
In a civil case, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. So, the plaintiff doesn’t have to “prove” that the defendant was driving the car at the time. Instead, it is normally sufficient to show that the defendant drives a similar make and model car and has no effective alibi.
Depending on the strength of the evidence, punitive damages may be available. These additional damages, which are designed to deter future wrongdoing by others and punish the tortfeasor (negligent driver), come into play if there is clear and convincing evidence of “intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” Hit-and-run crashes arguably fall into this category. In some cases, the amount of punitive damages is capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.
If the tortfeasor is not sufficiently identified, most victims can sue their own insurance companies to obtain compensation for their economic and noneconomic damages, assuming that there was a serious injury. In the unlikely event the case does not settle, the matter usually goes to binding arbitration instead of trial.
Reach Out to Aggressive Attorneys
For prompt assistance with a negligence claim from an assertive personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We do not charge upfront legal fees in car crash cases. From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.